Sunday, November 9, 2014

google doodle reading and learning

Whenever I'm searching the internet and a google doodle appears, I have to immediately check it out before my search. I usually check it out again a few more times before initiating my search and I even go back to it a few more times during the day to link to more information.

Today's google doodle short film commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall made me think of one of my favorite picture books, The Wall by Peter Sis. That made me think of the very short film produced, integrating his book illustrations and footage behind the "Iron Curtain". It's still moving. You can see it here.

Now I'm wondering how many others appreciate and learn from this google doodle genre.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

SOLC Day 24~ testing in 3rd grade

At 8:51 a.m. I left the bookroom (my office) to pick up six young assessees from four classrooms. Pickup time was 8:55 a.m. I didn't want to be late. I waited a few extra minutes for five of the six as they got their last minute directions and bits of advice from their classroom teachers on the best strategies to use when test taking. The teachers looked a bit worried when I walked in. I said I'd wait outside and students could come out when they were ready. Is anyone ever ready for testing?

These students formed my small group, my team for the morning and were together because they get very interested in so many things all at once and a classroom full of 25 students would provide too much opportunity for interesting things to consider while they are taking a test. We can't let this get in the way of their best answers on the test. I mean practice test.

We spend a lot of time and resources practicing for the real thing. The conditions, environment, groupings, accommodations, scheduling, assigning of space, rearranging of lunches and specials and quiet are all planned and synchronized so we can provide the most realistic version of standardized testing possible. It's like going into battle. It's scary.
Personally, I don't think the majority of third graders are developmentally ready for this kind of battle, I mean synchronizing. It takes endurance, patience, confidence, and rationalizing. Not to mention the reading comprehension that's required to answer the questions and that's just in the math assessments. They sit for long periods of time. They have to be quiet, mind and body. They have to believe they can do pretty well and they have to be able to understand why this kind of assessment is important for their future. Most third graders aren't able to think about the next five minutes, let alone their future.

I don't believe it's the best way to show what students should know or be able to do. But, it is a fact of life. So our teachers spend time teaching students how to build endurance, patience, have confidence about test taking, and how to understand why we take these kinds of tests. It's a whole genre on its own. In fact, one of our reading teachers, Amy Greene and a former third grade teacher, Glennon Doyle Melton, co-wrote the book. Literally. It's called Test Talk. I admit I work on these strategies with some ambilavence.

Just before my little team and I walk out of our small group testing space, I give permission for students to perform acts of arm flatulence and mouth popping, giving credence to the spontaneous performances a few minutes earlier. They are thrilled but wary. I just want them to get it out of their systems before we enter a quiet hallway. They readily accept this invitation and I know my ambivalence is justified.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

SOLC Day 10~ my writing spot

It's been a few years since I began Blink and Bridge. It started as an attempt to learn more about what my students went through as writers and to journal what happened in our classroom. Yesterday during writing workshop I watched our second graders writing at their desks and it dawned on me they really only get to write in one spot everyday. Their desks. I wondered if they were comfortable. Several students walked around, some to talk about their writing with another student. Some were asking for help from a classmate. All good stuff. Although I admit, I thought a couple of students were just walking around to avoid writing, which made me wonder again if they were comfortable.

When I write at home, I have a three spots I seek out. All have comfortable chairs and ottomans. I believe a comfortable chair ought to have an ottoman because you ought to put your feet up when you sit in it. I like to write with my laptop in my lap. I just think you're supposed to. I think I write more and my writing sounds better when I compose from those spots. Once in awhile I sit at my office desk and write. Even with a comfortable chair it isn't where I prefer to think and write. That desk is where I study. It's where bills get paid. Too much baggage in that spot, I guess. Even at school in the bookroom which houses my desk, I'll sit in the craig's list love seat I got for free so I can put my feet up and write with my laptop on my lap.

I'm thinking I might go into my classroom on Monday with a whole new attitude about where our kids can write. Maybe that darn desk is holding them back. Maybe all they can associate the desk with is math problems! Or the economics of Ancient Mali? At the very least maybe they'd like a choice.

Do you give your students choices about where they can write? Where's your favorite spot to write?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SOLC Day 6 Morning Swim

A few mornings a week, when it's still dark outside, I drag myself to an indoor swimming pool to exercise before I get to school to teach. I watch the long lean high school swimmers, silicone caps on head, rearrange the swim lane lines from the 50 meter distance to the 25 meter distance after their 5:30 am workouts. They're readying for us; the mostly recreational swimmers. I watch the masters swimmers, with their tight swim caps, their special goggles, their individual sets of fins, kickboards, their structured workouts and water bottles get to the pool edge just as I do. I grab a kickboard from the bin, pull out my water bottle, stretch my goggles over my head and hop in. I can see the other swimmers when I turn to breathe on one side. Their precise, sleek strokes are propelled by quick kicks. They look smooth. I make a mental note to get my elbow a little higher before my hand breaks the surface. 

After many summers swimming competitively as a teenager, some of it is like riding a bike. Some of it isn't. I don't do the butterfly stroke for more than half a lap these days. But, I add a few more laps each day. In the middle of my swim I add 1/4 mile of anaerobic laps to get my heart rate up. Way up. Even though my swim isn't as structured as it might be, I get the same satisfaction from the time in the pool as I did when I was much younger. And even when I'm working hard, it still feels like playing to me.

Monday, March 5, 2012

SOLC Day 5~ Today's Read

I couldn't wait to start the finish of the book. I'm reading two books right now for a book club. One is for the March gathering and one is for April. The April book, When the Emperor Was Divine is a much shorter novel. I couldn't help but, pick it up. The tiny book was calling to me. I read chapter one. I was hooked. I couldn't wait to read this!

But, I really wanted to finish the other book, The Heretic's Daughter, longer and with language that isn't as sparse or modern, by next Monday. I opened it right away this morning to get closer to the end. I began to think of the dilemma. The story was too good. I'd be done with it too soon.

There is some consolation knowing I have the other story ahead.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

SOLC Day 3~ my celebrity crush

Yikes, I was eight minutes late. I leaned over, pressed the button that would turn on his voice and laid there waiting. His disarmingly sentimental, evenly journalistic, sometimes interrupted by belly laughs voice questioned the interview subject. I listened to the end of the story and then got up to brush my hair. As if he'd pop out of the radio and notice. I imagine we might much in common. Not just the joy we get from a good cup of joe.

The first time I saw Scott Simon was on the book jacket of his memoir, Home and Away, a story I remember that shared so much about two of his loves, his dad and sports. After years of hearing him on Weekend Edition, I had pictured someone else.

I've since seen him in person, sitting disarmingly on a stool, talking sentimentally, journalistically, and interrupting frequently with belly laughs, about his family, his travels, and his writing.  He looks just right now.

My husband was travelling, so I took two of my daughters with me thinking they'd appreciate how he so charmingly tells a story. I mean how he reports on the events of the day. They were mostly impressed I'd been reduced to a simpering 16 year old as I walked around the theater waiting for the doors to open, ignoring that he's married to a beautiful, funny woman from France and has two adorably bright children.

My family named it before I did. He's my celebrity crush.

Friday, March 2, 2012

SOLC day 2~ "Yourr Prrfect"

The story projected onto the entire screen for the other writers to see. The writer of the piece beamed. I read. She beamed some more. I beamed as I read.  I said it was an example of a small moment that really showed how the writer felt. When I noticed it a few days before in a conference I knew I wanted to share it as a mentor text. It was especially important to share this writer's talent. It wasn't always the first thing a classmate noticed about her. 

There wasn't a student moving and eyes were on that screen. The writer wasn't usually this engaged. At least for very long. But her story about going to the buny stre with my mom and ded was holding her attention. She looked around to gauge the reaction as I read. The buny hopt ont my lap and lcked me. I hgged it. I said yourr prrfect.

Her classmates let her know they could see the bunny on her lap. They asked her if she was afraid when the bunny hopped into her lap. Comments continued without me. "I think she was happy because she hugged it." "When she said the bunny was perfect, it meant she was happy." You didn't have to say you were happy. You showed you were happy." "I had a movie in my eyes about the bunny."

This was one of my favorite writing workshops ever.